On May 7, 2008, Dmitry Medvedev took an oath as the third President of the Russian Federation. Despite recent apparent disagreements on certain issues between Medvedev and Russia’s prime minister and some verbal skirmishes between the two, the political course previously set by Vladimir Putin remains substantially unaltered.
Medvedev’s presidency is a work in progress and, in any case, one four-year presidential term is not a sufficient period to arrive at any final conclusions. A more thorough assessment can be carried out at the end of the second term. What complicates matters further is that, although the Constitution gives most of the power to the president, Russia’s current rule is, in practice, a diarchy.
Despite recent apparent disagreements on certain issues between Medvedev and Russia’s prime minister and some verbal skirmishes between the two, the political course previously set by Vladimir Putin remains substantially unaltered. Democracy is heavily “managed” and Russia has not moved significantly beyond the model of state capitalism. Medvedev’s “modernization program” and his other suggested reforms are still in early stages. A decisive anti-corruption drive has yet to be launched and the judiciary, as Medvedev has himself admitted on several occasions, is not independent.
It took eleven years and almost three full mandates for Margaret Thatcher to implement her reforms. American presidents are considered weak and ineffective if they fail to run for the second term like Lyndon Johnson or are not re-elected like Jimmy Carter.
It is not only a matter of having a vision or wanting to leave an imprint in history for a leader to succeed. It’s a matter of believing in one’s own goals and working hard to achieve them. If Medvedev really stands by his agenda and if he is truly confident that his reforms are a priority for Russia, then he must run for the second term. Even if this means running against the mighty and powerful prime minister. He has a whole year to prepare for elections.
If, instead, Medvedev decides not to run, history will remember him as someone who kept the seat warm for Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term.
No matter how sophisticated the experts are in analyzing Medvedev’s presidency and unraveling the intricacies of his relationship with the Russian prime minister, the bottom line remains: a president who is not re-elected will be viewed as a failed leader.